ISP definition

ISP stands for Internet Service Provider, a company that provides households and organizations with access to the internet through copper, fiber, or satellite communications. For the usual homeowner, who may not understand ‘what is an ISP’ – it’s the company you pay a subscription fee in order to use internet.

You may have a computer with an inbuilt modem and a router for networking, but without an ISP you cannot have an internet connection. Basically, it’s the link between your computer and all the other servers out there.

How does it work?

Once you connect your computer to the network with a modem or a router, and you type the webpage you want to access, the modem sends your request to an ISP. It checks whether you have a static IP address.

  • If YES, your request is processed.
  • If you do not have a static address, the ISP communicates with the DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server and assigns your computer a dynamic IP address. Then your request is processed by your Internet Service Provider.

What does an ISP do?

An ISP offers a variety of services to their customers. Besides internet access, it can provide web hosting services, allowing users to create and maintain personal web pages. Some ISPs also offer services to develop webpages for you. These web hosting services include domain name registration and domain name hosting.

Other services, such as telephone, dial-up access, leased line access and television services may be provided as well. Offered services are unique to each ISP. Many perform backups of email and web files, offer firewalls, etc.

Types of ISPs

Most Internet Service Providers offer different kinds of ISP connections based on the number of users and email addresses needed, connection speed or the amount of free web space. Some types of ISPS include:

  • Dial-up ISP

Dial-up is an internet connection that sends and receives data via a phone line by means of a modem. Although it is one of the slowest internet connection, some dial-up ISPs provide accelerators that use webpage caching and content compression to increase the speed of the data transfer. If you have a phone line, you can generally find a dial-up ISP in your area. It is one of the cheapest ISPs.

  • Cable ISP

A cable ISP offers internet access through a coax cable. This connection also requires a modem that usually can be rented from the Internet Service Provider or bought from a computer dealer. The advantage is that you can save money by bundling both internet and TV services together.


Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), comes through your phone line just as the dial-up. However, DSL uses electrical signals at frequencies that humans cannot hear. Many phone companies offer DSL internet connection at discounted prices if you also use their phone services. The key difference between DSL and dial-up, is that DSL internet connections are much faster and you cannot hear the data signal. Also, you can use your phone and the internet at the same time even with only one phone line.

  • Wireless broadband

This is a new type of broadband internet connection technology that provides high-speed wireless internet within a large area. These ISPs provide internet speeds that are close to or higher than the wired broadband speeds provided by cable and DSL ISPs. It is usually used where the wired broadband connection cannot be accessed (remote areas).

  • Wi-Fi Access

Wi-Fi is a wireless internet access. Wi-Fi is not as quick as DSL or Cable, but it’s a very convenient ISP service.

  • Satellite

Satellite internet connection is accessible to individuals who are not able to receive DSL or Cable ISPs. Satellite connections have very fast download speeds, but their upload speeds are very slow. The Satellite ISP is common in remote or rural areas where there isn’t any broadband connection.

  • Fiber optic broadband

This type of internet connection offers access to superfast broadband via individual fiber optic cables.

How do I know what my current ISP is?

To know which Internet Service Provider currently supplies your internet connection, perform an ISP speed test. The name of your ISP should appear along with your download & upload speed results.

All ISPs offers access to the internet, though internet censorship is common and some significant ISPs may block some websites. You can use a Tor network or a VPN service to bypass an ISP blocking access, and freely browse without restrictions from your ISP.